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Becoming a trustee or senior manager of a charity

The problem

The Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 prevents charities from recruiting trustees and senior managers with certain criminal records. Amendments that came into force in 2018:

  • extend the framework to cover senior staff of charities, including chief executives and finance directors
  • extend the existing trustee disqualification framework to cover people on the sex offenders register (even when the conviction is spent)

As a charity that exists to support the efforts of people with convictions in moving on positively with their lives, and as an organisation which itself seeks to recruit trustees and leaders who themselves have convictions, we are concerned about the potential impact of these proposals and how the current system operates. Ultimately, we think that the changes brought in by the 2016 Act are disproportionate and an ineffective way of protecting charities.

Individuals who are automatically disqualified can apply to the Charity Commission for a waiver – although they will need the charity’s support to do so. For small charities this administrative burden – coupled with the delay while awaiting a decision – is likely to be impossible to manage.

We’re concerned that the waiver process is not working as well as it should be, and that the way it operates causes unnecessary barriers for both charities and individuals.

What we think needs to change

  1. The extension of the disqualification framework to senior managers should be scrapped
  2. The rules should only apply while a conviction is unspent
  3. The waiver process should be asset-based and speedy

What we're doing

We’re continuing to make the case to government that the changes should be scrapped, while at the same time working closely with Clinks and others to ensure that both charities and people with convictions are aware of what’s on the horizon, so that they can make sure they’re prepared if they do come into force.

We are working to ensure that the processes of the Charity Commission operate in a way which allows charities the freedom to recruit people as trustees who have unspent convictions, where the charity believes that the individual can fulfil their obligations as a trustee and the charity can show it has taken reasonable steps to protect the interests of the charity.

What we’ve done

  • Responded to government’s consultation in  2014
  • Gave evidence to the Joint Committee in 2014
  • Published a briefing on the Bill in 2015
  • We’ve lobbied for amendments to the Bill, which received Royal Assent in March 2016.
  • Submitted evidence to the Public Bill Committee in 2015
  • Worked with our patron, Edward Garnier, on the 2016 debate to seek a number of concessions
  • Responded to the 2016 consultation on the power to disqualify from acting as a trustee
  • Produced a briefing with Clinks explaining the changes affecting people with convictions and charities.
  • Pushed for delays to the implementation timetable.
  • Worked with the Cabinet Office and the Charity Commission before changes were implemented in 2018.
  • Published guidance for both charities and individuals on the changes to the rules

Are you disqualified from being a charity trustee or senior manager?

We’re gathering evidence from people who are affected by the disqualification rules.

You are likely to be affected if you:

  • have unspent convictions for dishonesty-related offences, deception-related offences, money laundering or terrorism-related offences or
  • are on the sex offenders register.

What we need from you

If you have are automatically disqualified from acting as a trustee or senior manager because of your criminal record and have been (or will be) affected by the rules in some way, contact us at using the subject header ‘Call for evidence: CC disqualification’. Please include:

  • Your name
  • Contact details (email and telephone) and how you’d like us to contact you
  • Details of your criminal record
  • Information on how the disqualification rules have affected you – did you have to give up a position you were already in? Have you applied for a position but been turned down by the charity?
  • Have you applied to the Charity Commission for a waiver – and were you successful?
  • What you think should change
  • Whether you would be willing to take part in publicising this issue (this is for our reference, we won’t share your details with others).

Any information you provide will be kept in line with our confidentiality policy. Any personal information provided to us will not be shared externally without your consent.

Find out more about how we handle your data.

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